I’m reflecting today on a question that was asked of me recently. Maybe it’s a question you have heard recently as well. The question is, “When will the church be open again?”
At first glance, the question is a legitimate one. After all, many of our meeting places remain closed as we develop and implement plans to once again meet as congregations in the safest manner possible. This is not an easy task, nor one that should be taken lightly. The safety of those who attend must remain at the very top of our list of priorities. There have been far too many cases of congregations starting back up, only to close a short time later because of COVID-19 transmission occurring within the building once the doors were open again. As much as I miss the gathering together of our congregation, I would be devastated to discover someone who attended had became infected because I was in a rush to open the doors and had not taken every precaution possible.
One day, hopefully not very far off from now, our communities of faith will once again gather together in congregational worship, and what a joyous day that will be! Until then, may I suggest that the answer to the question “When will the church be open again?” is this: the church has never once been closed!
You and I may look at a building and call it “church,” but in reality, the idea of calling any building a “church” would be as foreign to early followers of Christ as a shiny new iPad would be if one were handed to them. The church, the collective body made up of anyone believing in Christ, has never been closed, and shall never be closed. This is easily verified once we look beyond the building.
Consider Pastor Katish Kumar from India, whose congregation has given out medicine and 700 TONS of food to families affected by COVID-19.
Consider Pastor Luo from Wuhan, China (where the pandemic first originated) who organized multiple local congregations to come together as one and hand out much-needed supplies to Wuhan residents.
Consider Shades of Grace in downtown Kingsport ,which continues to serve over 70 meals each day to the homeless and those affected by COVID-19.
The church is not closed. If anything, the church has simply been placed back on mission.
Now, I have a question for you. As a member of the body of Christ on the earth, what may you do today to reflect the love of our founder, Jesus, to others during this pandemic?
Jack Carpenter is pastor at Morrison Chapel United Methodist Church in Kingsport.